India’s best television screenwriting program — and the only one of its kind — is accepting entries from aspiring and experienced writers alike for a place on the coveted program that will identify and train the next generation of storytellers for television. The Star Writers Program 2019 will handpick and empower 15 talented writers for a possible TV-writing career with Star India
Alfred Hitchcock is said to have quipped, to the effect, “My film is finished the moment the script is finalized. I find shooting a necessary evil.” He was obviously exaggerating to make a point, of course — if snopes.com doesn’t flag this as ‘false’ — but there you have it: the paramount importance that is always given to the script. Of movies or television shows.
There are many youngsters who run to Mumbai, dreaming of a career in TV and the movies – primarily as actors, or as writers. And when it comes to writers, their quest for success must always necessarily overcome two major hurdles: getting a meeting with an interested and capable producer, and then, having a great, really well-written script to present. Both of those asks are enormously challenging. What makes things even worse is, often, the hapless aspirant writer isn’t even aware s/he might now have the requisite talent.
So, unfortunately, most aspiring writers, even those with excellent stories they want to tell, languish.
Well, finally, there’s one program that promises to help not one or two or three, but fifteen truly talented writers. In fact, it’s been doing so for two years now, and has announced its third edition this year — The Star Writers Program 2019, which, even as you read this, is inviting aspiring writers to step up make #TheWriteMove and register to vie for one of fifteen coveted spots on the program this year. And the registrations are happening apace.
Here’s how the Star Writers Program 2019 will roll out to identify, train and nurture the next generation of storytellers who will be trained under Dean David Freeman and some of the best experts, under the aegis of Star India, the nation’s top content innovator for 25 years now.
The Star Writers Program 2019 is a seven-month, full-time course and internship in television screenwriting, and open to both — aspiring and experienced writers.
It will be conducted by a galaxy of the top Indian and global writers. Celebrated writer and teacher David Freeman will be Dean of the program. In fact, over the past, apart from David Freeman, several top names including Ron Osborn, Vince Gilligan, Kerry Ehrin, Mrinal Jha, Abhijat Joshi, Gul Khan and Aniruddh Pathak have worked aspirants at the Star Writers Program.
How to register
Those who wish to be considered for one of the 15 cherished spots on the program, need to register online. It’s a simple process of registration. The URL to register is: https://starwritersprogram.startv.com and registrations, which opened in January, end on the 17th of February 2019.
Who can register?
Anyone who is 21 years old or above, is a graduate in any discipline, is fluent in spoken Hindi and English and able to write in English, and is passionate about content, can register.
A thorough selection process
Once an aspirant writer has registered, s/he needs to take two writing challenges:
The Scene and Dialogue Challenge:
The mission, as the website puts it, to create memorable scenes. Create scenes that surprise and delight, with multi-sided characters and sparkling dialogue.’ The section allows the aspirant to download not just the writing challenge and instructions for it, but also has a PDF ‘full of hot tips’. Why? Because the Star Writers Program wants to give aspiring writers ‘everything you need to do a great job’. So there’s a PDF that contains ‘a sample scene we wrote, and lots of pointers on writing the kinds of scenes that catch our attention’. Obviously, the creative team at Star India and the curators and Dean of the program want writers to have the best creative support to acquit themselves well. In fact, they’ve mentioned online that ‘reading that PDF full of tips is crucial if you want to do a great job’. Because ‘The sample scene has the kind of inventiveness and fresh dialogue that we’re looking for’.
The second challenge is The Story Challenge
While Star has some weekly and bi-weekly shows, most of its shows run five days a week. ‘Daily shows devour stories’, says the website, adding, ‘Thus Star’s GREATEST NEED is for writers whose imagination can take a premise and come up with an almost endless set of twists and turns’.
As with the Scene and Dialogue challenge, this section too has two downloads for the aspiring writer. The first, of course, is the Story Challenge itself. The second download is a sample story, and more “Hot Tips,” so the writer knows ‘just what we’re looking for.
Registrations end on 17th February. And this means not just aspirants applying for, but also completing and uploading both the writing challenges.
From all the writing challenge entries, a shortlist will be prepared, which will then see aspirants vying for final selection through another round in Mumbai. Close to 40 to 60 of the writers that are shortlisted will be flown to Mumbai at Star’s expense to participate in the Mumbai Challenge, a two-day event comprising lots of screenwriting instruction and writing. The finalists for the Star Writers Program 2019 will be chosen from that group.
So after a rigorous selection program, those finally ‘admitted’ into the Star Writers Program 2019 will undergo training and an internship, and will receive a monthly stipend throughout the 7-month course. The stipend is a considerable amount of Rs 70000 a month, and that’s not all.
After successful completion of the entire program, those who complete it could receive a two-year writing contract with Star! The Star Writer’s Program, and Star India as a company to be working with, are both so high up there in the collective creative mindspace, that there have been instances of professionals giving up careers like a dentist in favour of Star India. Of course, the writing contract is for two years, and terms and conditions apply.
Why Star Writers Program is without parallel
This writer has launched, managed and written several TV shows including dialogue of more than 500 TV episodes and a feature film too, and has been a Life Member of the Film Writers Association, now re-christened the Screen Writers Association. Having been in and watched the television industry for years, and having seen writers — talented or otherwise – struggle, one can say without hesitation that the Star Writers Program, which is now in its third edition, is without parallel in India. There is nothing that is quite like this bespoke mission to train and empower writers and then go ahead and give them a possible career with India’s most respected content innovator for 25 years, the Star India Network. Truly, the Star Writers Program 2019 represents a unique and the most significant opportunity in India for experienced and aspiring writers alike to make a solid career in creative writing for television.
Gaurav Banerjee, President, and Head – Hindi GEC at Star India and the driving force behind the Star Writers Program, says, “Writing is at the heart of great television, which, to take the next big leap, needs the best set of potentially great writers. However, there exists an immense training gap in India, and hence the Star Writers Program is our attempt to identify the next set of truly talented writers and arm them with the art and craft of television screenwriting. There was no institute teaching television screen-writing when we started this program two years ago in India, and we are happy that our program has given writers a formal path into establishing themselves in television.”
In fact, over the past two years, alumni writers from the Star Writers Program have been part of the writers’ rooms for shows like Kaal Bhairav, Nimki Mukhiya and Nazar from the Star Network.
Top trainers at Star Writers Program 2019
SWP, which attempts to fill the gap in television writing in India, will have some of the best Indian and global writing stars conducting it, sharing their secrets of storytelling at the Star Writers Program 2019. With insights and wisdom acquired through years of experience, they will analyze their victories and failures, and tell aspirants a lot about what to expect going forward.
David Freeman, one of the most accomplished and respected script writers and teachers of creative writing in Hollywood, is Dean and lead instructor of the Star Writers Program. He has put a down the course syllabus in partnership with the Star team. It is based on Beyond Structure, http://beyondstructure.com/about-david-freeman a course he taught to key personnel at global film studios and television networks, as well as famous film and television writers. His course titled Beyond Structure equips participants with more than 200 different screenwriting techniques to make their characters and stories highly engaging and thrilling.
Freeman is not just a teacher but a writer who has sold scripts to numerous Hollywood studios. He has also taught writers, directors, and entertainment executives around the world. David will give SWP’s 2019 batch skills and techniques to help them express their creativity to set them up success as television writers. David’s classes are inventive, interactive and bursting with ideas. His teaching style is detailed and he will guide the mentees step-by-step to the point where they can write at a professional level.
Hear David Freeman on writing with passion and responsibility
Other creative leaders on SWP faculty
In the past, some of the best Indian and global creative minds have been part of the faculty.
- Ron Osborn, who has written shows like Moonlighting, the West Wing and Beauty And The Beast, plus Meet Joe Black, presented a script breakdown of one of the West Wing episodes, and also conducted a workshop on creating interesting villains
- Vince Gilligan, award-winning writer and creator of Breaking Bad and its spinoff Better Call Saul and was one of the writers on the X Files. He did a script analysis of the pilot episode of Breaking Bad.
- Kerry Ehrin, who helped create Bates Motel and has been one of the top writers on Friday Night Lights, Parenthood and many other shows, spoke on how characters often lie to themselves, and how their figuring this out is part of their journey
- Mrinal Jha, writer of numerous shows including Kahin Kissii Roz, Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat, Tum Bin Jaaoon Kahaan, Banoo Main Teri Dulhan, Amber Dhara, who spoke of creating compelling plots and stories for long running shows
- Abhijat Joshi, acclaimed writer of blockbusters like 3 Idiots, Lage Raho Munnabhai and PK, who spoke on what makes a compelling story.
- Gul Khan, the producer of hit shows like Qubool Hai, Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon, Ishqbaaz and Dil Bole Oberoi, shared her perspective on how to write an inventive and interesting screenplay
- Aniruddh Pathak, who has written many popular TV shows like Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, Siya Ke Ram, and Mahakumbh, shared his experiences as a screenwriter in the Hindi television industry
The path-breaking Star Writers Program 2019 for television screenwriting will provide quite simply the best opportunity to aspiring, talented writers to not only learn, but also to make a great career for themselves with their screenwriting abilities.